Have you ever noticed what a mess Superman has become?
When I say that I don’t mean the Big Blue Boy Scout himself but rather the series, the entire family of books. Superman, Action Comics, Supergirl, World Of New Krypton, Last Stand Of New Krypton, all of them have been really sloppy since the end of Final Crisis. Too many crossovers, convoluted story arcs (General Lane, anyone?), confusing dialog, etc. If ever there was a series that could use a generous helping of less is more it’s Superman. None of that changes with Superman #699, an issue that could be the pinnacle of just how bad all the titles have been.
The reason Superman #699 can touch on the low quality of what Superman has devolved into is that, once again, it crams way too much into one issue and delivers on nothing. First let me warn you by saying if you haven’t been reading Action, Last Stand Of New Krypton, Adventure Comics, Supergirl and Superman you will be totally confused. The issue opens with a boring exposition dialog trade between Superman and Zod as they destroy Brainiac’s metal helpers. There’s no attempt to clue those not shelling out for all the titles on what’s going on so literally by page two you’re completely frustrated.
Then suddenly the Legion Of Super-heroes appear on the scene and then cut to what looks like Mon-El hooked up to Brainiac’s ship but, no wait, now Mon is flying around helping the Legion. Then the Legion tells Mon-El he has to return to the future. There’s no explanation for that little tidbit because suddenly we’re watching Supergirl and a future Brainiac try to restore Kandor once again to its normal size. Superboy Conner is on Kandor and of course nobody bothers to explain why. Lex Luthor makes an appearance, Superman gets a cryptic warning and then Brainiac’s ship blows up.
Superman #699 reads as if writer James Robinson started eight scripts, couldn’t finish any of them so he took a page from this one and that one tried to pass it off as a cohesive story when in reality it’s a mess. See, there’s that word again. I’m sure if I was reading every last damn title I’d know what was up but I feel that DC could be big enough to clue those of us with other books to buy in on the plot so far.
The art by Bernard Chang matches perfectly with the writing, rushed, sloppy and way less than a title like Superman deserves. The way this whole series has gone down I can only assume that DC’s been so lost in Blackest Night, Brightest Day and The Return Of Bruce Wayne nobody is minding the store over in the Superman section.
As bad as Superman #699 is, it’s also a time for all of us fans to get really excited. The excitement doesn’t come from anything going on within the pages of this issue but rather that it marks a hopeful end of what the Superman series has devolved into. Starting in issue #700 J. Michael Straczynski takes over the writing and has assured fans the Man Of Steel is heading back to basics. Granted we’ll have to wade through War Of The Supermen, which kicks off this weekend during Free Comic Book Day but after that it could be a return to what makes Superman great. If it doesn’t, than the folks over at DC will become a much deadlier threat to Superman than Kryptonite ever was.